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Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act: Implementation

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

30 Jan 2001 : Column WA47

Lord Bassam of Brighton: A number of the provisions came into force on Royal Assent or on dates fixed by the Act. We have today made a commencement order bringing into force the majority of the remaining provisions of the Act.

The controls on donations to political parties and on election campaign expenditure by political parties and third parties will be among those that come into force on 16 February 2001. A registered political party will be required to submit its first quarterly donations report (detailing donations above £5,000 accepted by the party's central organisation and donations above £1,000 accepted at local level) to the Electoral commission by 30 April 2001, whereupon it will by published. Returns as to election spending will normally need to be submitted to the commission within three months of the date of an election or within six months where the return is required to be audited (because the expenditure exceeds £250,000). Other provisions of the Act will come into force on 16 March and 1 July 2001.

The commencement dates for the provisions covered by the order, or which are already in force, are set out in the tables:

Section/Schedule of ActTiming of Commencement
Part I (The Electoral Commission)
Sections 1 to 3 and Schedules 1 and 2 (The Electoral Commission and Speaker's Committee)On Royal Assent (i.e. on 30 November 2000)
Sections 4 (Parliamentary Parties Panel); 5 (Reports on elections and referendums); 6 [except subsection (1)(c) & (d)] (Reviews of electoral and political matters); 7 (Commission to be consulted on changes to electoral law); 8 (Powers with respect to elections exercisable only on Commission recommendation); 10 (Giving advice and assistance); 11 (Broadcasters to have regard to Commission's views in party political broadcasts); 12 (Policy development grants); and 21 (Interpretation of Part I).16 February 2001
Sections 9 (Involvement of Commission in changes in electoral procedures); and 13 (Education about electoral and democratic systems)1 July 2001
Part II (Registration of Political Parties)
Sections 22 (Parties to be registered in order to field candidates); 23 (The new registers); 24 to 27 (Preliminary requirements); 28 to 35 (Registration) and 37 to 40 (Supplemental) and Schedule 4 (Applications under Part II).16 February 2001
Section 36 (Assistance by the Commission for existing registered parties)Two weeks after Royal Assent (i.e. on 14 December 2000)
Part IV (Control of donations to registered parties and their members etc.)--Sections 50 to 71 and Schedules 6 and 716 February 2001
Part V (Control of campaign expenditure)--Sections 72 to 84 and Schedules 8 and 916 February 2001
Part VI (Controls relating to third party national election campaigns)--Sections 85 to 100 and Schedules 10 and 1116 February 2001
Part VII (Referendums)--Sections 101 to 129 and Schedules 12 to 2516 February 2001
Part VIII (Election campaigns and proceedings--
Section 130 and Schedule 16 (Control of donations to candidates), Section 132(2) to (4) and (6) (Financial limits applying to candidates' election expenses); Section 134 (Meaning of "election expenses"); 135 (Meaning of "candidate"); and paragraphs 3 to 5, 7, 10, 11(a), (b) & (d), 15 & 16 of Schedule 18.1 July 2001
Sections 131 (Election expenses incurred otherwise than by candidate); 132(1) & (5) (Financial limits applying to candidates' election expenses); 133 (Power to vary provisions about election expenses); 136 (Corrupt and illegal practices; consequences for persons convicted of such practices); 137 and Schedule 17 (Corrupt and illegal practices; election petitions etc.); and 138 and paragraphs 1, 2, 6, 8, 9, 11(c), 12 to 14, and 17 to 19 of Schedule 18 (Election campaigns and proceedings: miscellaneous amendments)16 February 2001
Part IX (Political donations and expenditure by companies)--Sections 139 and 140 and Schedule 1916 February 2001
Part X (Miscellaneous and General)
Sections 142 (Pre-consolidation amendments); 143 (Details to appear on election material); 145 to 148 (Enforcement of Act); 149 (Inspection of Commission's registers etc.); 150 to 154 and Schedule 20 (Provisions relating to offences); 155 (Power to vary specified sums); 157 (Documents for purposes of the Act); 158 (Minor and consequential amendments and repeals); 161 (Interpretation: donations); and 162 (Interpretation: exempt trust donations).16 February 2001
Section 144 (Broadcasting of local items during election period)16 March 2001
Sections 156 (Orders and regulations); 159 (Financial provisions); 160 (General interpretation) and 163 (Short title, commencement, transitional provisions and extent) and Part II of Schedule 23 (Other transitional provisions)On Royal Assent (i.e. on 30th November 2000)
Schedule 21 (Minor and consequential amendments)
Paragraphs: 1 to 5; 6(1), (5), (6), (7)(b) & (c), (8)16 February
& (9); 8 to 11, 12(2) & (13); and 13 to 15.1 July 2001
Paragraphs: 6(2) & (7)(d) and 16 to 18On Royal Assent (i.e. on
30 November 2000)
Paragraphs: 12(2) & (3)
Schedule 22 (Repeals)As with corresponding provisions
Part I of Schedule 23 (Transfer of Registration of existing registered parties).Two weeks after Royal Assent (i.e. on 14 December 2000)

Those provisions of the Act not listed in the table will be brought into force by means of one or more subsequent commencement orders at a date or dates to be announced.


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Rendlesham Forest/RAF Bentwaters Incident

Lord Hill-Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will detail the underground facilities at the former RAF Bentwaters installation; and what is the purpose of these facilities.[HL320]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): There are no underground facilities at the former RAF Bentwaters.

Lord Hill-Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of any involvement in the 1980 Rendlesham Forest incident by either Ministry of Defence Police or personnel from the Suffolk Constabulary.[HL321)

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Minister of Defence is not aware of any involvement by the Ministry of Defence Police in the alleged incident. The Ministry of Defence's knowledge of involvement by the Suffolk Police is limited to a letter dated 28 July 1999 from the Suffolk Constabulary to Georgina Bruni that is contained in the recent book.

Lord Hill-Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of any investigation of the 1980 Rendlesham Forest incident carried out by the United States Air force, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations or any other United States agency.[HL322]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Ministry of Defence's knowledge of an investigation by the US authorities into the alleged incident in Rendlesham Forest in 1980 is limited to the information contained in the memorandum sent by Lt Col Halt USAF, Deputy Base Commander at RAF Woodbridge, to the RAF Liaison Officer at RAF Bentwaters on 13 January 1981.

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Lord Hill-Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the new information contained in Georgina Bruni's book You Can't Tell the People, they will now launch an investigation into the Rendlesham Forest incident and the response to this incident by the United States Air Force and the Ministry of Defence.[HL352]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No additional information has come to light over the last 20 years to call into question the original judgment by the Ministry of Defence that nothing of defence significance occurred in the location of Rendlesham Forest in 1980. Accordingly there is no reason to hold an investigation now.

Lord Hill-Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have made any approach to, or received any approach from, any United States government or military agency concerning Georgina Bruni's book You Can't Tell the People; and, if so, whether they will give details of any such approach. [HL353]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: As a matter of courtesy, the Ministry of Defence informed Headquarters 3rd Air Force at RAF Mildenhall about the book. The US authorities have not subsequently approached the Ministry of Defence on the issue.

Lord Hill-Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they now agree with the analysis of the basic facts of the Rendlesham Forest/RAF Bentwaters incident in the fourth paragraph of Lord Hill-Norton's letter to Lord Gilbert of 22 October 1997, reported on page 429 of Georgina Bruni's book You Can't Tell the People; or, if not, in what respect they disagree. [HL354]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Ministry of Defence's position regarding this alleged sighting remains as it did at the time of Lord Gilbert's reply to the noble Lord's letter of 22nd October 1997. From surviving departmental records, we remain satisfied that nothing of defence significance occurred on the nights in question.


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